Monday, November 21, 2011

Political Change in Developing Regions

Question one: What are the basic “givens’ of Brazilian politics according to Roett? On the basis of his historical sketch would you conclude that ‘history is density’? Do you feel these are immutable and cannot be changed?

Givens are independent variables, dominant over time and relatively immune to change to change from outside the system according Roett (1992: 15) in Brazil these individual variables are the elite rule, state bureaucracy at the service of patrimonial order and social dualism. The elites of Brazil have through time dominated the political spheres and manipulated the population according to Roett (1992) they have been able to manipulate the population and defined the goals of the state in their own terms. Roett (1992) propagates that in Brazil pattern of elite interaction assigns great value of pragmatism in policy- making, deploys little ideological fervour, and endorses flexibility in inter-personal relationships and stress highly personal or charismatic forms. Power is encompassed in the elites whose power is built on its influence with institutions of the patrimonial state of which the military and the bureaucracy.

The other ‘given’ is the patrimonial state which according to Roett (1992) encompasses the concept of clentitelismo a system of decision making that is based on an exchange of substantive favours, legal privilege and protection from punishment among political actors. The patrimonial regime controls and dominates and the state becomes often synonymous with the regime according to Roett (1992) the state appears as the embodiment of historical and social processes that have most influenced the formation of the nation. The last ‘given’ is social dualism according to Roett (1992:36) is an enduring social framework in which that masses are systematically excluded from the majority of political and economic benefits generated by the system. I would conclude that ‘history is density’ because the ‘givens’ have evolved over a period of time and the bases of the measurement is to articulate what historically happen for these ‘givens, to become a prominent feature in Brazil. According to Roett (1992) the Portuguese crown aware of the rival forces in the colony increased bureaucratic centralization in 1549 creating patrimonial order which was later inherited by the modern Brazil state. The Crown supported the coastal groups against the pretensions of the interior this created social dualism were the other masses were marginalized from economic and political benefits this was inherited by the Brazilian political culture. According to Roett (1992) from the 1822 independence of Brazil two influential groups dominated the military and the state governors and determined the operations of the state, elites have always formed the base of the state structure.

Historical political structures are difficult to eliminate as they confine to society culture and socialization process although l feel that revolutions are always possible that can change these forms of political organization in Brazil so ‘givens’ are not immutable.

Question Two: Reading Lamounier, what do you see as being the biggest challenges for Brazilian politics today and on going into the future?

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Brazilian politics today is the question of democracy and establishment of legitimate rule. Lamounier (1995:138) the continued army tutelary of their role in civilian and society institutions has hampered the development of democratic institutions in Brazil this has created a challenge to separate the military from the government operations. The Brazilian society is highly differentiated and complex and they has been continued resistance of military regimes however according to Lomounier (1995:139) low levels of participation of society in economic and political activities is a major challenge that Brazil faces. This attribute is contributed to the centralization of government operations according to Lamounier (1995) the federation directly controls a large proportion of the economy.

In development and growth challenges Brazil according Lamounier (1995) have insufficient domestic savings, technological dependence and high external debts these challenges are caused by poor economic governance strategies and the phenomena of the existence of a patrimonial state that encourages corruption and self elite enrichment marginalising the poor. The other biggest challenge is the issue of addressing high levels of inequality that dominates in Brazil according to Lamounier (1995) levels of income inequality and mass poverty in Brazil are among the worst in the world, the concentration of property and land in colonial history and through the authoritarian rules created huge income inequalities.

The other biggest challenge Brazil faces is that of eradication of national and ethic cleavages although according to Lamounier (1995) political conflict between groups is nonexistent in this homogenous society marginalisation of the minority groups in economic and political activities is still a major problem. Lack of leadership that create a new ideological structure and move away from clientelistic politics is also another major problem according to Lamounier (1995:151) they is an oversupply of leaders willing to violate the rules of the game for self enrichment, political legitimacy and political existence. The other main problem is the presence of a non democratic political culture in Brazil according to Lamounier (1995) the electoral process has requisite quantum of aggregate uncertainty regimes have altered the constitution to have power over the electoral votes for instance the Electoral Court Act in 1932 . A significant degree of social mobility exists despite severe income inequality according to Lamounier (1995) the cultural process of modernization does not have any relative impact rather maintain their egalitarian culture. The other alarming problem is that is ever increasing population growth in large cities that have increased pressure on state resources.

Question Three: What is patrimonialism? How has it been entrenched in Brazil society and what are the prospects of changing the system?

Patrimonialism which according to Roett (1992) encompasses the concept of clentitelismo a system of decision making that is based on an exchange of substantive favours, legal privilege and protection from punishment among political actors. The patrimonial regime controls and dominates and the state becomes often synonymous with the regime, the state appears as the embodiment of historical and social processes that have most influenced the formation of the nation. According to Roett (1992:98) patrimonialism has made association leaders and followers to leave initiation to higher authorities and to regard the government as the supreme entity of the society.

Patrimonialism has been entrenched through many institutions for instance the church and labour movements. According to Roett (1992:100) the Roman Catholic Church has been a vehicle to spread patrimonialism ideology of the Brazilian government, the church enjoys full political rights and many of the clergy have served in Congress and its ties with the government are strong. According to Roett (1992;100) since the election of Pope John XXIII in 1958 the church has been active in influencing the state policies, the National Congress of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) founded in 1952 was the to engage with the government to eradicate the socio-economic challenges in the 9 states. The church activities became more influenced by political catalyst supporting all government initiatives to protect its existence and dominance. The labour movements also played an important role entrenchment of patrimonialism according to Roett (1992:108) rather than allow the growth of an independent and perhaps destabilizing labour movement, regimes used its power to tie labour to the government effectively precluding the creation of autonomous, politically active interest groups to represent workers. The process of strategic unionism that was to eliminate any resistance according to Roett (1992:106) the union leadership had to accept the government interference and direction to assure social class conciliation and a dependent working class and in turn the regime would ensure their survival and freedom. Any resistance was crashed by removal of patronage channels and political influence of trade unions.

The dominant role of the patrimonial state has determined economic policy for the industrialists according to Roett (1992) the patrimonial state hold the preeminent leadership role in defining the path of the Brazilian industrialization, business culture necessary to nurture a truly indigenous and internationally competitive industrial sector was suffocated. Industrialist had to support the government strategic policies and of ensuring social cohesion, the government had little consultation with the entrepreneurs and the industrialists play an assertive role in the economy of Brazil. The state bureaucracy and national planning has also been used to entrench patrimonialism under the leadership of Vargas after 1939 according to Roett (1992) with control and authority and control concentrated in the presidency the bureaucracy expanded rapidly. Most of the government employers supported patrimonialism as they were the major beneficiaries of the system according the Roett (1992) state bureaucracy was to the benefit of the ruling elites, in wealth accumulation and the use of national planning was a major tool to enhance allegiance and complacence to the ruling elites by Brazilian citizens.

Question four: Think a little out of the box about democracy: What do you learn by comparing India’s experience with that of Brazil?

The lesson that can be derived from the Indian and Brazil experience is the difficulties that states face in establishing democratic institutions and that in democracy they are certain ‘givens’ that continues to exist within a states even if they are not democratic. Democratic prospects both in Brazil and India were hindered by inheriting colonial political institutions which heavily impacted the political organization of the post independent states in their fist decades of democratization, created the same economic, political and social institutions as well as policies to run their states.

The other lesson to be learnt is the fact the democracy is derived from several ramifications within a state. In Brazil and India the presence of military domination in politics that turned to over throw the government in most encounters, patrimonialism, regional inequalities, authoritarian regimes and centralization of government operations leads to mass mobilization which in turn cause revolutions that changes the course of political organization in a state. The other lesson is that practice of good governance leads to political stability, good governance entails first and foremost a government that lives up its responsibilities by ensuring the effective delivery of public goods and services, the maintenance of law and order and the administration of justice and also creates a vibrant civil society as well as a dynamic market that secures economic growth and property.

The most valuable lesson l learnt is that the holding of election, is not the prerequisite for democracy, a mature democracy order requires that the new rules of the political game endure between election and indeed, compel incumbent governments to hold further polls within a constitutional defined period and continued accountability and representation are far more important that the simple mechanics of holding elections. Multi party democracy also needs a neutral state whose institution provide the level playing field on which political parties can compete, democratic development needs a new political environment in Africa where there is a clear distinction between states institutions and those of the ruling party.


Lamounier, B (1995) “Brazil; Inequality against Democracy” in Diamond L.Linz J, Lipset S.M (eds) (1995) Politics in the Developing Countries: Comparing Experiences with Democarcy. Lynne Rienner Boulder

Roett R (1992) Brazil: Politics in the Patrimonial Society. Praeger, London. Ch2. The Brazilian Political System in Perspective.

Roett R (1992) Brazil: Politics in the Patrimonial Society. Praeger, London. Ch5. The Patrimonial state and Society in Brazil